Naples’ sleeping supervolcano might be waking up

Naples’ sleeping supervolcano might be waking up

A new research published in the journal Nature Communications has warned that a long-quiet yet potentially highly-hazardous supervolcano in Italy is nearing the critical degassing pressure (CDP) state.

A team of scientists led by Giovanni Chiodini of Rome-based Italian National Institute of Geophysics, who are monitoring the Campi Flegrei volcano, has noticed accelerating deformation and heating in the volcano, suggesting that magma under surface is approaching a threshold beyond that could trigger release of fluids and gases.

Chiodini warned that a sudden release of magmatic hot, poisonous gasses is possible in the near future, which could trigger a massive eruption. The scientists also estimated that the potential release of the molten rock and gases could be ten times the usual rate.

Researcher Giuseppe De Natale said in a statement, “These areas can give rise to the only eruptions that can have global catastrophic effects comparable to major meteorite impacts.”

If it really erupts, it would be Campi Flegrei’s first eruption in nearly five hundred years. Campi Flegrei’s depression is more than 7 miles across, just west of Naples, the 9th-most populous urban area in the E.U. with a population of around 3.7 million.

A report published by Washington Post informed, "Forecasting volcanic eruptions is a famously dicey endeavor, and right now, it's impossible to say if and when Campi Flegrei might erupt, according to lead author Giovanni Chiodini, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics in Rome. But now more than ever, the caldera demands attention: An eruption would be devastating to the 500,000 people living in and around it."

A sudden release of hot magmatic gasses is possible in the near future, which could trigger a large eruption, the scientists warn. Yet the timing of any possible eruption is unknown and is currently not possible to predict.

Tests show that such multistep degassing can be adequately reproduced as an open-system degassing process provided that there are numerous and recurrent system-opening events, as is likely to be the case.

Campi Flegrei is thought to have formed hundreds of thousands of years ago. A massive eruption 200,000 years ago spewed so much ash that it darkened the skies around the planet, triggering a "volcanic winter." That event is thought to have been the largest volcanic episode in the history of Europe over that time.

The scars of another supervolcano were recently found in the Sesia Valley in the Italian Alps. That eight-mile-wide caldera likely last erupted 280 million years ago, when it blasted out a thousand times more material than Mount St. Helens spewed during its infamous 1980 eruption. The result was the blocking out of the sun, which led to global cooling.

"There will be another supervolcano explosion," scientist James Quick, a geologist at Southern Methodist University in Texas, said in a statement when that volcano was found.